Last week, on Wednesday 15th November, we held a fundraising dinner in London's Caledonian Club. Here is the speech from our founder and executive director Alastair Cameron.
Hello and good evening, everyone, and thank you very much for coming to this event. I hope you’ve already been meeting old acquaintances and making new contacts, and I know we’ve got a great evening ahead of us.
It’s almost three years since we started Scotland in Union. Although we didn’t launch officially until March 2015, many of us realised the pressing need for a non-party pro-UK campaign within a few weeks of the 2014 referendum. For me, the catalyst was new “YeSNP” leaflets arriving through doors less than two weeks after the vote. My immediate reaction was: “That’s not fair”. How naive I was, to think that playing fair was ever on the nationalists’ agenda. My second reaction was: “Somebody should do something about this.” Well, we have done something about it, together, over the last three years - and we still are doing something about it.
We are making a difference.
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since late 2014, of course, both in the wider political context and in the development of Scotland in Union. SIU has grown from that first idea to a significant force in Scottish politics. It’s done so thanks to people like you: donors, volunteers, and of course our small team of dedicated staff.
I can think of some of the highlights of SIU’s activity, from front-page coverage of our opinion polling, to our ‘broken record’ poster outside one SNP conference, to our thoughtful and authoritative responses to official consultations, to featuring on the UK six o’clock BBC1 news earlier this year to show Scots rejecting indyref2, to the many street stalls across the country, manned by fantastic volunteers. I can also dwell on the enormous efforts of our staff, some of whom are here tonight, and I hope you get to speak with them about their work.
However, to my mind the actual activities of SIU, and even the talents and dedication of our team members, are really just means to an end. I’m most enthused by how SIU has provided a voice for people who might not otherwise have spoken up; how we have provided reassurance for people frustrated by the constant stream of SNP media releases; and how we have helped people to make connections and work together to support the UK.
Together, we are stronger. We all know about that, and of course it’s the raison d’être of Scotland in Union, but it’s also fundamental to how SIU works. Scotland in Union is about bringing people together from across the moderate political spectrum and working for a common goal. We’ve seen that in action with our supporters sharing letters to the newspapers and encouraging others to write in; with people coming up to our street stalls and saying quietly how pleased and relieved they are to see us; with people providing mutual support online, on Facebook and Twitter; with evenings such as this where we can make more connections as well as chatting with old friends; and with working together with other groups, whether that’s political parties or other organisations.
On that last subject of other groups, two things: first, while the pro-UK parties have vital roles to play in defeating nationalism, we believe passionately that our non-party campaign has a unique strength. SIU can bring people together around the single issue of support for the UK in a way that no one party will ever manage on its own. We’re not aligned to any one part; nor are we beholden to any party; and we aim to keep it that way. Second on the subject of groups, we are delighted to welcome the newly launched pro-UK and pan-UK think tank ‘These Islands’. I know that their distinct yet complementary voice and academic heft will assist us all in continuing to campaign for Scotland in the UK.
And campaign we must, I am afraid. I have said before that I would love to get to a point when I felt SIU was no longer needed, or at least that the campaign could go into low-level sustained phase because the danger has passed. I certainly know that my spending less time on this effort would be appreciated by my long-suffering family.
However, that point when we could wind SIU down is not yet near. We may perhaps have seen the much-awaited point of ‘peak SNP’ for now, but tides flow as well as ebb, and we cannot afford to be complacent while the SNP remain able to set the political and media agenda in Scotland, and nationalists remain in power in the Scottish Parliament, working every day to further their aim of separation.
Scotland in Union is thus still sorely needed, and the SIU team still need your help and support. Of course we can prevail, and see Scotland’s security within the UK enhanced and the threat of nationalism diminished – but these things won’t happen by themselves. With your support, SIU will continue to speak up for you, for Scotland, and for the UK.
I’m sure you will all have a fantastic evening. Please make the most of this opportunity tonight to make those vital connections; to talk about how we can work together to strengthen Scotland’s place in the UK; and to support SIU however you can do best – and have fun, too!